Arlington, VA

Two Arlington teens are facing felony charges after an alleged vandalism spree in the new Dorothy Hamm Middle School.

Police were dispatched to the under-construction school on Vacation Lane — which formerly housed the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program — just after 11 p.m. Wednesday, following a burglar alarm activation. They found two 18-year-olds and a slew of damaged property, according to the Arlington County Police Department.

“Arriving officers established a perimeter and observed the suspects exit the building,” police said in a crime report. “One suspect was taken into custody, while the second suspect attempted to flee on foot. Officers later located the second suspect nearby and took him into custody without incident.”

The teens “were arrested and charged with Burglary with Intent to Commit Larceny/Assault & Battery/Other Felony, Conspiracy to Commit a Felony, Destruction of Property and Consume/Purchase/Possess Alcohol: <21 Years Old,” the crime report said. “They were held on no bond.”

A police spokeswoman said the damage was mostly from graffiti.

“The suspects allegedly tore down posters and papers and spray painted various items throughout the building,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “A cost estimate of damages is ongoing.”

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The arrival of cold temperatures was preceded by a line of rain showers packing gusty winds that knocked out power to part of Arlington.

Portions of residential North Arlington along Lee Highway — including the Cherrydale, Waverly Hills and Donaldson Run neighborhoods — are without power as of 8:30 p.m. In all, Dominion is reporting 1,641 customers in the dark.

Video posted to social media shows dark clouds and rain arriving, as flashes from transformers can be seen in the background.

Traffic backups are being reported at the now-dark “five points” intersection on Lee Highway in Cherrydale. Police have also been dispatched to assist with traffic control on N. Quincy Street at 20th Street N., where downed utility lines have been reported.

Mother Nature, meanwhile, is not done with us yet. High winds and near-freezing temperatures are expected Saturday. From the National Weather Service:

STRONG WINDS ARE EXPECTED SATURDAY. A WIND ADVISORY MAY BE NECESSARY AS WINDS COULD GUST TO 50 MPH.

A FREEZE WATCH IS IN EFFECT SATURDAY NIGHT INTO SUNDAY MORNING FOR PORTIONS OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA.

More on the storm and the power outages via social media:

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A lot has changed for Grace Rubinger, an Arlington native who has been working for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) since she graduated college.

Rubinger started her career as an intern in Rep. Beyer’s office the fall after she graduated from Elon University in 2016, just before President Trump was elected. Four years later, she is now a legislative assistant to the congressman, working behind the scenes in various policy areas Rep. Beyer is passionate about.

She recently began taking on more responsibility in specific issue areas. Currently, she is handling the congressman’s work on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

“When we’re in session there will be any given number of hearings for that committee during the week,” Rubinger told ARLnow.
“I’ll spend my time preparing for [the hearings], reading the background materials and witness testimonies and then coming up with questions that I’d like for the congressman to ask the witnesses.”

Rubinger also advises the congressman when deciding which bills he should support.

Rubinger’s interest in politics goes back to her upbringing near Cherrydale, where she attended Taylor Elementary and Williamsburg Middle School. Politics was always right across the Potomac River, she said, and at home her parents were in tune with current events. There would often be a nightly discussion of the news at the dinner table.

Her interest in policy, however, was shaped at Elon. In her senior year, Rubinger wrote a thesis on the intersection between the Catholic Church’s view on birth control and the women’s movement.

“Writing that thesis and figuring out my own views was the turning point for me,” Rubinger said.

Rubinger’s tenure at Rep. Beyer’s office has come at a unique time in history. Her work as an intern began prior to the 2016 election, and has stretched into what is now the third presidential impeachment trial in American history — an impeachment process her boss has been particularly vocal about.

“It is interesting to look back and see how many things have changed,” said Rubinger.

“The one thing that I’ve noticed just in my different capacities in the office is just how much more engaged people are,” she said. “People are so outraged all the time about different things that are going on and I think [public engagement] is probably the one bright spot in everything that’s going on. People are reading the news more and staying more engaged and calling us and writing us more.”

“That is something that might have been missing beforehand,” she added.

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Arlington County Police are investigating an armed robbery that happened last night in Cherrydale.

The robbery happened around 9 p.m., on the 3500 block of Lee Highway, which is home to a Dunkin Donuts store. Police say a man armed with a gun forced an employee to open a register and stole cash.

The large police presence on the street after the robbery was noted by a local resident.

No injuries were reported. At last check, the suspect remains at large.

More on the robbery from today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

ARMED ROBBERY, 2020-01290273, 3500 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 8:54 p.m. on January 29, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business and approached an employee behind the counter. The suspect displayed a firearm and threatened the employee, demanding they open the cash register. He stole an undisclosed amount of cash from the register, then forced the employee upstairs, where the suspect forced entry to a secure office, causing damage. Nothing additional was reported stolen from the office. The suspect fled prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 25-26 years old, 5’8″-6’0″, wearing a jacket, gray pants, black boots, black gloves and a black mask. The investigation is ongoing.

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A pair of local restaurants along Lee Highway in Cherrydale has closed, at least temporarily.

Billy’s Cheesesteaks and Bistro 29, located side-by-side in a small shopping center on the 3900 block of Lee Highway, closed earlier this month, tipsters tell ARLnow.com.

In a brief phone interview, owner Kostas Kapasouris said he’s “trying to make the restaurants better” and that they will “remain the same restaurant,” but said he’s not sure when the restaurants will reopen.

Billy’s namesake and former co-owner Bill Hamrock — who opened the restaurant in 2011 — said he has “been out of those businesses for over 4 years.” He currently owns Hamrock’s Restaurant in Fairfax City.

Billy’s closed temporarily in 2014 after a fire. Kapasouris made headlines in 2015 after leasing a space in a nearby shopping center he owns to a gun store, before reversing the decision.

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The county has kicked off its four-block traffic calming project along N. Stafford Street, north of Washington-Liberty High School.

The project, between Lee Highway and 15th Street N. in Cherrydale, is part of the county’s “Neighborhood Complete Streets” program.

A key feature of the project is the implementation of a “chicane,” or curved design, on the street. The Institute of Transportation Engineers suggests curving a street slows traffic by forcing drivers to “steer back and forth instead of traveling a straight path.”

The traffic calming is necessary because the current road design allows drivers to speed down it.

“The existing roadway is long and straight, has a lot of topography which creates a lot of slope, and these are characteristics of the road that allow vehicles to pick up speed,” said an Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) official at a recent meeting about the project.

The official noted that observed speeds on the road were not enough to justify “vertical” traffic calming measures like speed bumps, but did call for something “less obtrusive,” like the chicane.

The county is planning to remove remove three to five parking spaces to make room for the chicane changes.

The project includes other upgrades and changes.

Crews could be seen yesterday (Thursday) replacing the stop signs at the intersection of N. Stafford Street and Lee Highway. One worker noted the sign was “rusty and outdated,” and the replacement sign would have “better reflectivity so drivers know to stop.”

Workers will also soon be installing a new curb ramp at the intersection of 19th Street N. and N. Stafford Street, plus a new all-way stop at the intersection of 17th Street N. and N. Stafford Street, according to DES spokesman Eric Balliet.

The traffic-calming project is intended to:

  • Slow vehicle speeds
  • Reduce/eliminate crashes
  • Meet engineering best practices
  • Provide a better pedestrian experience

Arlington officials picked N. Stafford Street for the project after asking for public nomination of dangerous streets across the county. According to the project page, it was the “top ranked street from the first round of [Complete Streets] applications.”

In a public survey by DES, 41% of responders said they would feel “safer” with the proposed changes on N. Stafford Street, while 11% said they would feel “much safer.”

A spokeswoman for the Arlington County Police Department said police have not recorded any crash at the intersection of N. Stafford Street between Lee Highway in the last four years.

The N. Stafford Street improvements are being considered a pilot project. County staff will observe and measure conditions on the street for at least one year, per the project website.

The project will cost an estimated $20,000 for striping, signage, and concrete work. Funding was allocated in the county’s FY 2019-28 Capital Improvement Plan.

Photos via Arlington County

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Cherrydale’s Subway restaurant — the longest surviving business at the 38 Place condo building (3800 Lee Highway) — has closed.

The chain sandwich shop, which opened on the ground floor of the development in 2012, shuttered its doors sometime last week, according to a tipster.

The franchise has been closing several locations across Arlington over the last year.

The next closest Subway is further west at 4817 Lee Highway.

House of Steep that closed on the same block and is currently undergoing conversion into a Chase Bank ATM location.

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(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) Cherrydale’s volunteer fire house is set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its construction in 1919 this weekend.

The Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department will host festivities and a fundraiser for the anniversary this Saturday (July 20) from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. The Central Firehouse, owned the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department, is the oldest in Arlington and recognized by the National Register of Historic Places as a local historic landmark.

A parade will kick off the Saturday celebration at 10 a.m. starting from Saint Agnes Catholic Church (1910 N. Randolph Street). The remainder of the festivities will be held at the firehouse (3900 Lee Highway). All activities are open to the public.

For kids, volunteers will set up a bouncy house and firetruck demonstrations after the parade.

Tours of the fire house and swing dance lessons will be available throughout the day, according to spokeswoman Elise Nelson. Radio station 94.7 FM The Drive will broadcast live from the event.

(Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department members are trained as firefighters and medics. They sometimes ride along with professional crews from the Arlington County Fire Department and provide some support services to ACFD during incidents, but do not currently fight fires, according to the local firefighters union. The Cherrydale VFD disputed the assertion that its members do not fight fires, but did not directly answer a request from ARLnow to provide a recent example of a VFD member engaged in fire suppression operations alongside ACFD.)

A chili cook off, a raffle, bingo and various games will wrap-up the evening. Guests can use a donation to vote for their favorite chili, made by members of the volunteer fire department. Prizes for raffles and bingo include gift basket from 35 partnering businesses.

The celebration will take on a more serious note mid-afternoon as firefighters who served during 9/11 will share their experiences with the audience, and the organization will remember Marvin Binns, a former member of the Cherrydale VFD. A plaque will be presented and hung on the wall along with his uniform. Binns died of cancer in 2015, according to his obituary.

“His inspiring 62-year legacy included many years of leadership as President, and 36 years bringing Santa to the station — making him a cherished figure for countless generations,” Nelson said.

The Cherrydale Fire Department began with a group of 12 men after they came together to battle a small fire, according to public library records. Over time, Cherrydale VFD grew as an organization and today has 50-60 members in its ranks. Though Arlington County took over responsibility for everyday emergencies, most of the members have emergency medical technician training and can assist police or other firefighters whenever a need may arise. They also help local authorities with lighting at emergency scenes and events.

The Saturday event will double as a fundraiser and proceeds will go towards the refurbishment of the fire house. Nelson said that the building needs foundational repairs as well as cosmetic retouches.

As a historical landmark, Nelson said that the building requires special attention from an expert familiar with refurbishing old buildings, which often comes at a higher cost.

“We can’t do anything that would go against that historical precedent,” she said.

For example, to repair crumbling brickwork on the outside of the building, they were quoted a cost of $50,000.

According to the book “The Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department: A History” by author Kathryn Holt Springston, former President Woodrow Wilson and his wife each purchased a brick for the fire house during a fundraising event when it first opened. But, Wilson’s brick was later stolen.

Today, the building serves as a center for the Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department and as a gathering space for community members. There is a gathering hall which is available to rent for weddings, banquets, parties or other events.

Nelson said that the group hopes to raise $100,000 in 2019 to keep the Cherrydale fire house running for at least another century.

Photos courtesy of Cherrydale Volunteer Fire Department

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Anyone interested in getting their Arlington t-shirts or D.C. skyline onesies should buy now because local apparel store District Line Co. is going out of business.

The one-woman clothing company based in Cherrydale is planning to shut down by July after the rest of the inventory is sold off.

Lisa McLaughlin, the store’s founder, said as the store passed its five year anniversary in April, she discovered that she’d lost her enthusiasm for the business.

“That surprised me,” McLaughlin told ARLnow. “I looked at stuff coming up, like we were going to need to rebrand or rename, so it was kind of a combination of things but mainly I just realized on a business level that it’s a lot of work to continue growing a brand. You have to have a passion to do that, and I just felt like I wasn’t the right person to do that.”

McLaughlin said one of the early mistakes was not trademarking the company’s name, so she was in conflict with similarly named companies and often received reviews meant for the other companies.

“I loved doing business in Arlington,” McLaughlin said. “When I started this company we made about four shirts and did one event. I didn’t know if anyone was going to get this concept. But people loved their neighborhoods. The Arlington community was very supportive.”

In retrospect, McLaughlin said she would have hired someone to help manage the company.

“I would set it up differently,” McLaughlin said. “I’d have hired at least one person, even if it’s part time, to help with day to day. I’d have spent time on a business plan and think through how will I actually use my hours on what things.”

District Line Co. is currently working on selling off its inventory in a farewell sale. McLaughlin said anyone using the code “farewell25” on the website will receive a 25 percent discount on merchandise.

Image via District Line Co.

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) A pair of apparently unrelated water issues have been plaguing the Cherrydale neighborhood over the past 24 hours.

Last night, Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) reported “low water pressure along 4000-4200 Lee Highway, which includes several apartment buildings.”

Tipsters tell ARLnow that water service was out until the early morning hours for residents and some businesses, possibly due to a mistake by the contractor working to replace a 90-year-old water main along nearby N. Taylor Street. Other tipsters reported that some local households had rust-colored water around the time of the outage.

DES spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien tells ARLnow that crews worked overnight to fix the problem.

Yesterday, we had water pressure issues with a newly connected main that impacted a number of residents in the Cherrydale area. The contractor had completed 1 of 2 connections to a new 12-inch water main as part of planned work in the area. It was expected that the redundancy in the system from one connection would be adequate enough to maintain enough pressure and service to the area. The normal pressure in the area is about 80 psi and the one-way feed dropped the pressure to 50 psi. This error caused the unexpected drop in pressure. The contractor was called back in around 10 p.m. to expedite the second connection which was planned for Tuesday during the day. Water pressure was restored around 5 a.m.

This afternoon, meanwhile, crews responded to another nearby Cherrydale location, at the Five Points Intersection, for a report of a burst pipe.

Water could be seen streaming from underneath the road, forming large puddles on the pavement and prompting a lane closure, but not a complete road closure.

“There is a confirmed valve leak near Lee Highway and N. Quebec Street,” O’Brien said. “This is unrelated to the water issues experience last night and in a different pressure zone. Crews are scheduled to begin the repairs 10 p.m. this evening. Approximately 50 customers may be impacted.”

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A new senior living center, perhaps the first to be built in Arlington in decades, could soon be on the way for a property along Lee Highway.

McLean-based Artis Senior Living has filed plans with the county to build a six-story facility with 175 units on a 2.79-acre property near Cherrydale. The building would be divided into two wings, surrounding a landscaped plaza and a new public park near the site, located at 2134 N. Taylor Street.

Artis has discussed the potential of bringing a senior living center to the property with neighbors in Cherrydale and Waverly Hills for close to a year now, but the company (which operates facilities across nine different states) only brought zoning applications to county officials in late November.

“The proposed facility would be the first new assisted living facility constructed in Arlington in almost 20 years,” Martin Walsh, an attorney representing Artis, wrote in a letter to zoning officials. “There is a sincere need for additional senior housing in Arlington. Currently, without sufficient capacity in the county, seniors are forced to look outside Arlington for assisted living. The proposed facility would allow Arlington’s seniors to ‘age in place’ and continue to call Arlington home.”

Artis’ plans call for one wing of the building to be about 173,600 square feet in size, with another at about 152,500 square feet. That would include room for 95 assisted living units, and another 80 specifically set aside for “memory care” patients.

The apartments would range in size from studios to one- or two-bedroom units. The buildings will overlook a plaza with green space for residents, which will sit over top of a partially buried parking garage. That will have about 108 spaces, under the company’s proposal, which Artis expects will be more than enough space for the center’s 50 employees.

The company also expects that close to 30 percent of its workforce will rely on nearby Metrobus and Arlington Transit routes to get to work, and a traffic analysis attached to the plans does not foresee the senior center impacting congestion on Lee Highway.

The new park, designed as a contribution from Artis to the county in order to benefit both the facility’s residents and neighbors, would be located at N. Taylor Street’s intersection with Lee Highway. Walsh noted in the application that a visioning study of the Lee Highway corridor completed in 2016 called for a new park on that site — the document was created ahead of a broader effort to draw up new plans for the entire corridor, which just began in earnest last month.

Once the county signs off this proposal, Artis plans to purchase the property, which is made up of several different parcels of land along the 4300 block of Lee Highway. They were owned for decades by the Courembis family, and neighbors have often debated what might become of them, though the homes on the land now sit empty, according to Arts’ application.

The company is asking for some zoning changes to allow for the construction of a senior center in the area, and submitted this application as a “site plan,” a process that will involve an additional layer of county scrutiny.

The Site Plan Review Committee will now hold meetings on the project and its design. Should it withstand that group’s review, it will need to advance to the Planning Commission and, ultimately the County Board for approval.

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